Trustees discuss Superfund process report

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HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Questions, more questions — and some suggestions.

That took up the first half of the Hoosick Falls Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night, as trustees considered a report connected to the Superfund decision-making process in the village, along with ideas for a community workgroup and central website addressing contamination issues.

The recently-finalized Technical Assistance Needs Assessment for Hoosick Falls sought feedback from community members about their concerns and perspectives on the village's federal Superfund site — Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics at 14 McCaffrey St., said Kirby Webster, who works for SKEO Solutions, the environmental consulting firm that compiled the assessment.

Recommendations from the report included: forming a community-based group for information sharing and community input, preparing easy-to-understand fact sheets that would address people's questions and providing frequent updates through a variety of methods, Webster said.

"[It's a] fairly rural community, we want to make sure that we're reaching people with the information they want to receive about our ongoing process," said Sean Mahar, assistant commissioner of public affairs of the Department of Environmental Conservation, when reached Wednesday.

Mahar presented at the meeting.

The technical assistance needs assessment was specific to that Superfund site, although the DEC is overseeing work to address other sites in the town of Hoosick, including the Saint-Gobain Liberty Street Site, the Oak Materials site on River Road, the former Oak Materials site on John Street, the Hoosick Falls landfill, the Allied-Signal Laminate Systems site on Mechanic Street and the former Oak-Mitsui site on First Street.

The McCaffrey Street, Liberty Street and John Street sites are designated Superfund sites.

The others are potential Superfund sites that are currently being evaluated by the DEC, Mahar said.

The state Superfund program is essentially the same as that of the EPA's Superfund program, he said.

The EPA's Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation's most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters, according the program's website.

Representatives at the meeting also addressed work already being done in relation to the recommendations.

Mahar told meeting attendees about the Hoosick Area Community Participation Work Group, a proposal of the DEC and other agencies to help get residents more engaged in the cleanup process.

"In creating this, we looked around the state at other Superfund sites," he said at the meeting. "Our goal is to really hit the ground running with this as soon as we can."

The proposal was put out for 30-day public comment period Wednesday, Mahar confirmed.

The group would create "a really good aggregate" of all the area Superfund sites, said Brian Bushner, a trustee.

It would act as a "bridge" for local people to work more closely together, he said.

Gary Holmes, assistant commissioner of public affairs at the state Department of Health, also briefly presented a proposal for a website for communities impacted by perfluorinated compounds in the Hoosick Falls area, according to a copy of the one-page proposal.

"We're in draft phase," he said. "Trying to just create something that is simple and user-friendly."

It's about streamlining information, he said.

"We have to make sure that we're serving everybody," he said. "This is a start in a process."

Meeting attendees had many questions for Ian Beilby, chief of Section C (Special Projects Bureau), Division of Environmental Remediation at the DEC.

He updated the meeting attendees on progress on cleanups made at local sites, including 14 McCaffrey St, which is both a state and federal Superfund site.

There, the DEC is working on another round of expanded groundwater testing.

That site is currently in the remedial investigation stage of the Superfund process, to determine the nature and extent of the contamination and the risk posed by contamination to the environment and public health.

The most direct contamination impacts at that site is the groundwater, Beilby said.

There's a draft design for two wells to intercept the contaminated groundwater and keep it from migrating to the public water supply, he said.

One audience member said he would like to see those plans.

Allen told the audience that he has a conference call every month with DEC and DOH, where he's given updates.

Meeting attendees also had questions about possible air contamination.

"We don't have that data now," Holmes said. "It's not an easy answer to do."

Air emissions testing will be performed at the 14 McCaffrey St. site, and the DEC is in the process of finalizing details with the EPA, Mahar said.

Mahar said he would like to get members of the DEC who deal with these issues to future board meetings to answer such questions.

"We've always been wondering what's coming out of the air," Holmes said.

The village has been concerned with the group of toxic, man-made chemicals known as Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), since late 2014, when perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was detected at levels higher than the recommended EPA advisory level in public drinking water supply wells in Hoosick Falls.

PFOA was widely used for decades to manufacture products like Teflon, which in turn was used to coat wire, cookware, tapes and fabric.

In early 2016, a temporary filtration system was installed to remove PFOA from the village's municipal water system.

A permanent filtration system has been active since early 2017.

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, two companies with current or former industrial operations in the village, have been designated responsible parties for contamination of the town's water with PFOA.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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